Wild Hearts: Celebrating Women in Nature -By Liz
Featuring: Erika Riano-Mojica
Welcome to our Wild Hearts series. In this series we will celebrate inspiring Women who incorporate nature and wellness into their work and lives! We were motivated to start this series by the amazing Women that we have seen intersecting with the natural world as land stewards, botanists, herbalists, artists, and more. Women are strong leaders and are often found at the foundation of communities. It’s important to us at Wandering Association to highlight their abundant contributions.
This month we are proud to feature Erika, who is a Landscape Photographer and Adventurer originally from Colombia. She is an incredibly dedicated, family-oriented, happy and athletic person who loves to travel, enjoys the outdoors, and is passionate about photography and connections with Nature. Her friends describe her as a warm, caring, honest to a fault, open-minded and very supportive person.
At just 23 years old, Erika has already lived a life full of rich experiences and she encourages everyone to, “Step outside of your comfort zone, travel, don’t be afraid to feel uncomfortable in different cultures and different places because that’s how you learn and grow. Appreciate everything Nature and this World has to offer!”
Elizabeth Keller: When did you first fall in love with/find great joy in Nature and what details stand out to you from those experiences?
Erika Riano-Mojica: Throughout my Childhood in Colombia I lived in the city. However, my Grandparents and family had farms that we would often visit. These were big farms with all sorts of animals. We could wander safely, play with the cows, dogs, chickens, etc. without restrictions. We would swim in the River and explore everywhere with no fear. It was at these Farms that I really connected with Nature at a deep level. I would help my Grandpa with growing bananas, oranges and other crops. Picking and eating an orange straight from the tree was an amazing experience, as was getting up at 5 AM to help milk the cows. When I was in third grade I switched from a school that was bricked in and cold to a countryside school that had a farm, animals, and classes that included learning about gardening and caring for the animals. This made a big difference in my life at that time and I loved learning in such a hands on way.
Later when I grew older I furthered my connections with Nature by traveling to new places, different cities in Colombia and eventually different Countries. I was touched by these travels! A trip that included visits to Italy, France, and Spain really stands out as I was able to experience many different natural spaces. I’m also grateful to have lived and explored in Hawaii in my adult life which was amazing. Since living in Michigan one of my favorite places to go was the Upper Peninsula. The sights and sounds, and the peaceful forests full of Deer and Squirrel were beautiful. It was my first time visiting the UP since living in the city of Ann Arbor, MI for the past 11 years and it was a great contrast to the areas of Metro-Detroit that I’m used to.
EK: What has your learning process been in regards to Nature Photography?
ERM: I never liked or felt passionate about learning in the traditional ways. I knew from a young age that I didn’t want to pursue college. I prefer to learn in more hands-on ways rather than just from books in a classroom. I started learning Photography on my own, I experimented, watched videos, learned from other photographers, and did many workshops in different spaces and Countries as I traveled. The only formal training I had was in 2018 at an institute in Colombia. I had been feeling the pull to go back to Colombia and connect with my home Country and in order to do so I needed to have a valid purpose for my trip so I did Photography School there for 6 months. From this experience I made many connections with other photographers and people which allowed me to learn and travel more.
EK: In what ways does Nature inspire you in your daily life and photography?
ERM: In my daily life my energy and mood are dependent on having Connections with Nature in big and small ways. If I wake up and get to go see the Sunrise I know it’s going to be a good day. I love to be in spaces where I can feel the wind, touch the grass, connect with all of my senses. Nature breaks are needed to feel good. I’m inspired by Nature in my travels and I use photography to show other people places that they might not be able to visit. I hope they are inspired to travel and get out into Nature by my photos.
EK: What advice would you give to budding nature photographers?
ERM: Go out of your comfort zone, the best photos come when you do that. Be ready to experience different weather and climates. Go out into snow, go into water, explore all the options. Do photos at night, in the morning, anytime. You have to investigate everything that Nature has to offer. Without a deep connection to Nature, you will be limited in your expression and ability to translate what you are seeing to other people. Develop your connections and don’t limit yourself.
Erika’s passion for life and Nature come through in her dynamic, vivid photos! We are inspired by her story and the images that she captures, and we hope you will be too. Follow Erika on Instagram @erikariano to check out her adventures and see more of her amazing photography.
We will be featuring a different Woman each month in the Wild Hearts Series, be sure to come back for more inspiration!